Anu's beloved grandfather Bapu moved from India to Anu's home in the Pacific Northwest when Anu was small, and Anu is devastated when Bapu dies. But when he is visited by Bapu's ghost, he knows that there must be a way to bring him back to life -- he's just not sure how. Anu enlists his friends Izzy and Unger to help him. From shaving his head to making up fortunes in the hope of becoming more holy, Anu tries ...
Anu's beloved grandfather Bapu moved from India to Anu's home in the Pacific Northwest when Anu was small, and Anu is devastated when Bapu dies. But when he is visited by Bapu's ghost, he knows that there must be a way to bring him back to life -- he's just not sure how. Anu enlists his friends Izzy and Unger to help him. From shaving his head to making up fortunes in the hope of becoming more holy, Anu tries everything. He even journeys to the island of the Mystery Museum. Perhaps there, Karnak the Magician will be able to help?
Almost nine-year-old Anu has lost his beloved grandfather, Bapu. If only Anu had had the cell phone that Dad gave him for emergencies; if only he'd run faster to reach home and call the paramedics. It is unthinkable that Bapu is gone forever; there must be some way to bring him back to life. Inspired by a video of an Indian holy boy, Anu shaves his head, fasts, tells fortunes, rolls (somersaulting his way to school), and finally visits Karnak, the great magician—anything to have Bapu in his life once again. In the end it is Anu's father who suggests that Anu can't let Bapu go because of his unspoken feelings of guilt. "It wasn't your fault that he died. If you're keeping Bapu here because you want to be forgiven, you can let him go. Bapu doesn't need to forgive you. He knows it wasn't your fault." This touching (and at times humorous) story of a young boy coping with death is also a wonderful introduction to Indian culture. Woven seamlessly into the story are the Hindu gods and goddesses that Bapu worships and many Hindi traditions and customs. This is a wonderful addition to any school library. Recommended.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Living with working parents in the Seattle area, Anu spends a lot of time with his Indian grandfather. When Bapu has a stroke and later dies, the boy cannot let go of his guilt or his wish to stay connected. Then Auntie Biku visits from India, bringing a video of the sadhus, or holy men, and Anu is inspired to become one of them so that he can maintain his contact with Bapu. His adaptation of mystical ways, such as trying to roll to school, copying the sadhu who is said to have rolled thousands of miles, adds spice and humor to the story. Anu remains thoroughly American even as his roots in his Eastern tradition and culture are strong. The post-September 11th setting realistically reveals the stereotypes and bias confronting the protagonist's family and friends without being overbearing. A visit to a mystery museum brings the story to a satisfying conclusion. While many readers will see this novel as a window to a culture they know little about, the real value to most collections will be in providing Indian Americans with a chance to see themselves and their culture affirmed.-Carol A. Edwards, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, CO Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Anu has always shared his Indian heritage and Hindu religion with his grandfather, Bapu. When Bapu suddenly dies of a massive stroke, eight-year-old Anu has difficulty coping with both his guilt for not reaching help in time and his grief over his loss. Sensing the presence of Bapu's spirit, Anu is determined to find a way to bring him back through a variety of plans that include superstitious and magical elements with vaguely amusing outcomes. With the help of two friends, Anu first tries to become as devout as a sadhu, shaving his head to become holy. The first-person narrative, told in a much older voice, laces in and out of religious explanations of Indian gods and beliefs as Anu refuses to accept the finality of death. Learning of a magic shop on the island that holds the Mystery Museum, he and his friends visit the great magician Karnak who, Anu believes, will restore Bapu to life. Anu's father finally steps in to provide comfort and understanding through some realistic quality time, bringing closure to this child's perception of death by fostering a new beginning with memories of Bapu. A bit drawn out, slightly mysterious and somewhat moving for patient readers. (Fiction. 10-12)
Garuda, the Hindu god of birds, is also the king of bird poop. When he brings finches and nuthatches to our feeders, the droppings fertilize the soil. So he’s also the god of new grass. He flies direct from India to Seattle, and it doesn’t matter that the airports have been closed for a week since the planes hit the Twin Towers.
Garuda has the wings of an eagle.
My grandfather Bapu prays to all the gods and goddesses, but he’s silent as we trek into the woods to search for barred owls. Bapu marches ahead and I copy his strides, stepping into his giant bootprints in the soil. I’m Anu the Boy Explorer, star of National Geographic, bringing my backpack and birdseed to feed the chickadees.
“Quiet, Shona,” Bapu whispers. He still uses my Bengali baby nickname, which means “golden,” although I’m already eight and three-quarters.
I try to be quiet, but my jeans swish and my breathing disturbs the leaves. The air smells of fall—of dampness and leaves. Afternoon sunlight filters through the treetops, and a breeze lifts my hair. No biplanes or helicopters buzz overhead. The sky sleeps in a strange silence.
Bapu makes many turns, tramples far off the path and finally stops in a clearing. We’re far from the house; I can’t see the moss-covered roof.
I sit next to Bapu, so close that his warmth radiates into my leg. His clove and sweet pipe smell mixes with the cotton laundry scent of his shirt.
My heart beats fast.
“Soon, Anu, soon,” he says.
I check every shadow, watch for an owl blending in against a tree trunk. The barred owl hunts by night but also by day, Bapu says. He knows everything. He can name birds by their calls, and he knew it would rain today. The sky clouds over and drizzle spits down. We wait and watch until my legs cramp and then we pull on our ponchos and we’re two yellow mushrooms sprouting from the ground. The drizzle turns to rain, and Bapu takes a folded umbrella from his pocket, pops it open above our heads. His fingers quiver.
If my best friend, Unger, were here, he would complain about the rain streaking up his glasses. The only birds he watches are the plastic ones you use to play badminton.
“How long do we wait?” I whisper, tapping my foot. I pick up a pebble, drop it, pick it up, drop it.
Bapu presses a finger to his lips and nods his head in the Indian style, halfway between no and yes. “Patience, Shona. Like the sadhus of India, nah? They meditate for many years in caves without complaint.”
I tap my fingers in the damp moss. “Don’t they get bored?”
“They leave all thoughts and feelings behind. They strive for that which is unknowable to the human mind.”
“If it’s unknowable, why do they waste their time striving?”
“Striving is the whole point. They pursue their own inner light.” He points to my chest. “You have inner light.”
I have my own built-in lightbulb? Like the dome light that goes on when you open the car door? All I can feel is my heartbeat. “Do the birds have inner light too?”
Bapu waves an arm in a sweeping motion. “The light is everywhere, part of the Absolute, shimmering in everything.”
His words swirl out and sparkle like magic dust. I try to imagine the inner lightbulbs glowing in the raindrops, in the leaves, in the dirt beneath my fingernails. “I can’t see the special light, Bapu. Is there a switch?”
He chuckles and pats my head. “Ah, Shona. You’ll see. Perhaps you’ll have to meditate for a full twelve years as the holy men do!”
“Twelve years?” I’m not even nine. “I could never wait that long.”
“When your heart aches, you’re willing to wait.” Bapu presses a hand to his chest. “I waited two years for your Amma, until her father gave his permission for the marriage—”
“A whole two years?” I picture Bapu meditating day after day, not even getting up to eat or pee while he waits for Amma. I never got to meet her. She died before I was born.
“Two years is but a moment in the large scheme of time, Shona.”
“I’m just over four moments old, then. Two times four equals eight.”
“Your life is a god’s hiccup, but an important hiccup.”
I imagine the bird-god, Garuda, hiccupping me up, and I glance at the sky, in case he swoops down to swallow me.
“Bhalo, enough for today, Shona, nah?”
We get up and hike back through the woods. No owl today. We made too much noise, but I like talking to Bapu. He holds all the knowledge of the universe in his enormous, ancient brain.
He’s walking so slowly that I bump into him, and then he stumbles and falls on his face. The umbrella goes flying and lands with a thump. He must have tripped over a root. I wait for him to get up.
“Bapu, you okay? Let’s go.”
He doesn’t reply. “Bapu?”
I kneel beside him.
“Bapu?” His fingers aren’t trembling anymore, but he’s breathing. His lips are turning blue the way my lips get when I’m cold. Bapu’s cold, way too cold. Why won’t he talk to me? Why won’t he move? My stomach does a somersault. Something terrible is happening.